Weller at the Cactus Festival, Bruges,
|John William Weller Jr|
25 May 1958|
Woking, Surrey, England
John William "Paul" Weller Jr (born 25 May, 1958) is an English singer-songwriter and musician. Weller achieved fame with the punk rock/new wave/mod revival band The Jam. He had further success with the blue-eyed soul music of The Style Council (1983-1989), before establishing himself as a solo artist in 1991.
Despite widespread critical recognition as a singer, lyricist, and guitarist, Weller has remained a national, rather than international, star and much of his songwriting is rooted in British culture. He is also the principal figure of the 1970s and 1980s mod revival, and is often referred to as "The Modfather".
The Daily Telegraph said of Weller: "Apart from David Bowie, it's hard to think of any British solo artist who's had as varied, long-lasting and determinedly forward-looking a career." The BBC described Weller in 2007 as "one of the most revered music writers and performers of the past 30 years". In 2012, he was among the British cultural icons selected by artist Sir Peter Blake to appear in a new version of his most famous artwork - the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover - to celebrate the British cultural figures of his life. He has received four Brit Awards, winning the award for Best British Male twice, and the 2006 Brit Award for Outstanding Contribution to Music.
His father worked as a taxi driver and a builder and his mother was a part-time cleaner. Weller started his education at Maybury County First School in 1963. His love of music began with The Beatles, then The Who and Small Faces. By the time Weller was eleven and moving up to Sheerwater County Secondary school, music was the biggest part of his life, and he had started playing the guitar.
Weller's musical vocation was confirmed after seeing Status Quo in concert in 1972. He formed the first incarnation of The Jam in the same year, playing bass guitar with his best friends Steve Brookes (lead guitar) and Dave Waller (rhythm guitar). Weller's father, acting as their manager, began booking the band into local working men's clubs. Joined by Rick Buckler on drums, and with Bruce Foxton soon replacing Waller on rhythm guitar, the four-piece band began to forge a local reputation, playing a mixture of Beatles covers and a number of compositions written by Weller and Brookes. Brookes left the band in 1976, and Weller and Foxton decided they would swap guitar roles, with Weller now the guitarist.
Although The Jam emerged at the same time as punk rock bands such as The Clash, The Damned, and the Sex Pistols, The Jam better fit the mould of the new wave bands who came later, and being from just outside London rather than the city itself, they were never really part of the tightly-knit punk clique. Nonetheless, it was The Clash who emerged as one of the leading early advocates of the band, and were sufficiently impressed by The Jam to take them along as the support act on their White Riot tour of 1977.
The Jam's first single, "In the City" took them into the UK Top 40 in May 1977. Although every subsequent single had a placing within the Top 40, it was not until the band released the political "The Eton Rifles" that they would break into the Top 10, hitting the No. 3 spot in November 1979. The increasing popularity of their blend of Weller's barbed lyrics with pop melodies eventually led to their first number one single, "Going Underground", in March 1980.
They became the only band other than the Beatles to perform both sides of the same single ("Town Called Malice" and "Precious") on one edition of Top of the Pops. The Jam even had two singles, "That's Entertainment" and "Just Who Is the 5 O'Clock Hero?", reach No. 21 and No. 8 respectively in the UK singles chart despite not even being released as singles in the UK - they got there purely on the strength of the huge number of people buying import sales of the German and Dutch single releases. The Jam still hold the record for the best-selling import-only singles in the UK charts.
As the band's popularity increased, however, Weller became restless and wanted to explore a more soulful, melodic style of music with a broader instrumentation, and in consequence in 1982 he announced that The Jam would disband at the end of that year. The action came as a surprise to Foxton and Buckler who both felt that the band was still a creative formation with scope to develop further professionally, but Weller was determined to end the band and move on. Their final single, "Beat Surrender", became their fourth UK chart topper, going straight to No. 1 in its first week. Their farewell concerts at Wembley Arena were multiple sell-outs; their final concert took place at the Brighton Centre on 11 December 1982.
At the beginning of 1983, Weller teamed up with keyboard player Mick Talbot to form a new group called The Style Council. Weller brought in Steve White to play drums, as well as singer Dee C. Lee, who had previously been a backing singer with Wham!
Free of the limited musical styles he felt imposed by The Jam, under the collective of The Style Council Weller was able to experiment with a wide range of music, from pop and jazz to Soul/R&B, house and folk-styled ballads. The band was at the vanguard of a jazz/pop revival that would continue with the emergence of bands like Matt Bianco, Sade, and Everything but the Girl, whose members Tracey Thorn and Ben Watt contributed vocals and guitar to the 1984 The Style Council song "Paris Match".
Many of The Style Council's early singles performed well in the charts, and Weller would also experience his first success in North America, when "My Ever Changing Moods" and "You're The Best Thing" entered the US Billboard Hot 100. In Australia they were far more successful than The Jam, reaching the top of the charts in 1984 with "Shout to the Top".
Weller appeared on 1984's Band Aid record "Do They Know It's Christmas?" and was called upon to mime the absent Bono's lyrics on Top of the Pops. The Style Council were the second act to appear in the British half of Live Aid at Wembley Stadium in 1985.
In December 1984, Weller put together his own charity ensemble called The Council Collective to make a record, "Soul Deep", to raise money for striking miners, and the family of David Wilkie. The record featured The Style Council plus a number of other performers, notably Jimmy Ruffin and Junior Giscombe. In spite of the song's political content, it still picked up BBC Radio 1 airplay and was performed on Top of the Pops, which led to the incongruous sight of lyrics such as "We can't afford to let the government win / It means death to the trade unions" being mimed amid the show's flashing lights and party atmosphere.
As the 1980s wore on, The Style Council's popularity in the UK began to slide, with the band achieving only one top ten single after 1985. The Style Council's death knell was sounded in 1989 when their record company refused to release their fifth and final studio album, the house-influenced Modernism: A New Decade. With the rejection of this effort, Weller announced that The Style Council had split, and although the final album did have a limited vinyl run, it was not until the 1998 retrospective CD box set The Complete Adventures of The Style Council that the album would be widely available.
In 1989, Weller found himself without a band and without a recording deal for the first time since he was 17. After taking time off throughout 1990, he returned to the road in 1991, touring as "The Paul Weller Movement" with long-term drummer and friend Steve White, Paul Francis (session bassist from The James Taylor Quartet) . After a slow start playing small clubs with a mixture of Jam/Style Council classics as well as showcasing new material such as "Into Tomorrow", by the time of the release of his 1992 LP, Paul Weller, he had begun to re-establish himself as a leading British singer-songwriter. This self-titled album saw a return to a more jazz-guitar-focused sound, featuring samples and a funk influence with shades of the Style Council sound. The album also featured a new producer, Brendan Lynch. Tracks such as "Here's a New Thing" and "That Spiritual Feeling" were marketed among the emerging acid jazz scene.
Buoyed by the positive commercial and critical success of his first solo album, Weller returned to the studio in 1993 with a renewed confidence. Accompanied by Steve White, guitarist Steve Cradock and bassist Damon Minchella, the result of these sessions was the triumphant Mercury Music Prize-nominated Wild Wood, which included "Sunflower".
His 1995 album Stanley Road took him back to the top of the British charts for the first time in a decade, and went on to become the best-selling album of his career. The album, named after the street in Woking where he had grown up, marked a return to the more guitar-based style of his earlier days. The album's major single, "The Changingman", was also a big hit, taking Weller to No. 7 in the UK singles charts. Another single, the ballad "You Do Something To Me", was his second consecutive Top 10 single and reached No. 9 in the UK.
Weller found himself heavily associated with the emerging Britpop movement that gave rise to such bands as Oasis, Pulp and Blur. Noel Gallagher (of Oasis) is credited as guest guitarist on the Stanley Road album track "I Walk on Gilded Splinters". Weller also returned the favour, appearing as a guest guitarist and backing vocalist on Oasis' hit song "Champagne Supernova".
Heavy Soul, the follow-up to the million-selling Stanley Road, saw Weller twist his sound again. The album was more raw than its predecessor; Weller was now frequently playing live in the studio in as few takes as possible. The first single "Peacock Suit" reached No. 5 in the UK Singles Chart, and the album reached No. 2. Success in the charts also came from compilations: "Best Of" albums by The Jam and The Style Council charted, and in 1998 his own solo collection Modern Classics was a substantial success.
In 2000, while living in Send, Surrey, he released his fifth solo studio album, Heliocentric. Once again finding himself without a record contract, Weller's Days of Speed worldwide tour provided him with the opportunity to view his works as one back catalogue, giving rise to a second successful live album in 2001. Days of Speed contained live acoustic versions from the world tour of the same name, including some of his best-known songs from his solo career and the back catalogues of his The Jam and The Style Council days.
There were rumours at the time that Heliocentric would be Weller's final studio effort, but these proved unfounded when he released the No. 1 hit album Illumination in September 2002. Co-produced by Noonday Underground's Simon Dine, it was preceded by yet another top 10 hit single "It's Written in the Stars". Weller also appears on the 2002 Noonday Underground album called Surface Noise, singing on the track "I'll Walk Right On".
In 2002, Weller collaborated with Terry Callier on the single "Brother to Brother", which featured on Callier's album Speak Your Peace. In 2003, Weller teamed up with electronic rock duo Death in Vegas on a cover of Gene Clark's "So You Say You Lost Your Baby", which featured on their Scorpio Rising album.
In 2004, Weller released an album of covers entitled Studio 150. It debuted at No. 2 in the UK charts and included Bob Dylan's "All Along the Watchtower" as well as covers of songs by Gil Scott-Heron, Rose Royce and Gordon Lightfoot, amongst others.
Weller's 2005 album As Is Now featured the singles "From The Floorboards Up", "Come On/Let's Go" and "Here's The Good News". The album was well-received, though critics noted that he was not moving his music forward stylistically, and it became his lowest-charting album since his 1992 debut.
In February 2006 it was announced that Weller would be the latest recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award at the BRIT Awards. Despite a tendency to shun such occasions, Weller accepted the award in person, and performed four songs at the ceremony, including The Jam's classic "Town Called Malice". In June 2006, another double live album titled Catch-Flame!, featuring songs from both his solo work and his career with The Jam and The Style Council, was released. In late 2006, the album Hit Parade was released, which collected all the singles released by The Jam, The Style Council and Weller during his solo career. Two versions of this album were released: a single disc with a selection from each stage of his career, and a four-disc limited edition, which included every single released and came with a 64-page booklet. Weller was offered appointment as a Commander of the Order of British Empire in the 2006 birthday honours, but rejected the offer.
The double album 22 Dreams was released on 2 June 2008, with "Echoes Round The Sun" as the lead single. Weller had parted company with his existing band before the recording this album, replacing everyone except guitarist Steve Cradock with Andy Lewis on bass, Andy Crofts of The Moons on keys and Steve Pilgrim of The Stands on drums. This album saw Weller move in a more experimental direction, taking in a wide variety of influences including jazz, folk and tango as well as the pop-soul more associated with his Style Council days. Weller also featured on two songs from The Moons' album "Life on Earth", playing piano on "Wondering" and lead guitar on "Last Night on Earth".
Weller was the surprise recipient of the 2009 BRIT award for "Best Male Solo Artist", which resulted in controversy when it was discovered that a suspiciously high number of bets had been placed for Weller to win the award, for which James Morrison was T4's favourite. It was reported that the bookmakers had lost £100,000 in the event, and that as a result would not be taking bets for the awards in the future.
On 24 February 2010, Weller received the Godlike Genius Award at the NME Awards. His 2010 album, Wake Up the Nation, was released in April to critical acclaim, and was subsequently nominated for the Mercury Music Prize. The album also marked his first collaboration with The Jam's bassist Bruce Foxton in 28 years. In May 2010, Weller was presented with the Ivor Novello Lifetime Achievement award, saying "I've enjoyed the last 33 years I've been writing songs and hopefully, with God's good grace, I'll do some more."
On 8 November 2012, Weller announced that he would release the Dragonfly EP on 17 December 2012, a limited edition vinyl run of 3000 copies. On 22 November 2011, Weller announced his eleventh studio album Sonik Kicks, which was released on 19 March 2012.
Weller provided vocals on The Moons' 2012 single Something Soon. In December 2012, Weller headlined the Crisis charity gig at the Hammersmith Apollo, where he performed with Emeli Sande, Miles Kane and Bradley Wiggins. On 23 March 2013, Paul Weller played drums on stage with Damon Albarn, Noel Gallagher and Graham Coxon, playing the Blur track "Tender". This was played as part of the Teenage Cancer Trust concerts curated by Noel Gallagher.
Soon after the formation of The Style Council, Weller and Dee C. Lee, The Style Council's backing singer, began a romantic relationship. The couple married in 1987 and divorced in 1998. They have two children, Leah and Nathaniel (Natt), who is also a working musician and once appeared on stage with his father at Hammersmith Apollo at age 12.
Weller has another daughter, Dylan, by a short-lived relationship with a make-up artist called Lucy Halperin.
In October 2008, Stock and Weller broke up and Weller moved in with Hannah Andrews, a backing singer on his 22 Dreams album, who has also toured with his band. They married in September 2010 on the Italian island of Capri. The couple have twin boys, John Paul and Bowie, who were born on 14 January 2012. The couple also have a daughter, Nova, who was born on 8 July 2017.